In the second half of the first decade of 2000 there was already a well-developed system of public research funding in Austria with relatively high research investments. As a result, Austrian companies were increasingly able to produce more technologically advanced products. However, this offer of high-quality products has not been exhausted by public authorities (ministries, federal provinces, public companies, etc.). The public sector did not sufficiently promote the procurement of innovative, efficient and environmentally friendly products. While the research activities have provided innovative and eco-efficient products at Austrian companies, these products have not been able to exert their positive effects on the environment and society because they have not been adequately procured by the public sector. There was hardly anyone who would have helped public procurers to better evaluate and finally buy innovative products.
In several studies, the Federal Ministry of Science, Research and Economy (Bundesministerium für Wissenschaft, Forschung und Wirtschaft – BMWFW) and the Federal Ministry for Transport, Innovation and Technology (Bundesministerium für Verkehr, Innovation und Technologie – BMVIT) have identified the great potential of public procurement as a demand-side innovation policy instrument. To this end, in September 2012 the Austrian Federal Government adopted the Austrian Action Plan on Public Procurement Promoting Innovation (PPPI). The main objective of the PPPI initiative (and its crucial tool, the PPPI Service Centre) is the stimulation of innovation as a contribution to the solution of societal challenges and the strengthening of Austria’s competitiveness. This applies in principle to all areas of public administration on the one hand and to all innovations in products and services on the other. With the implementation of PPPI, the use of further developments in the public sector is intensified to provide citizens with a sustainable, efficient and effective range of public services. This allows the modernisation of public administration in general and specifically its infrastructure (transport and network infrastructure) taking into account future needs and impacts on future generations.
The PPPI Action Plan is well embedded. First, the Action Plan is linked to the Austrian Strategy for Research, Technology and Innovation. Second, its formulation is the result of a participatory PPPI Strategy Process, involving all relevant Austrian stakeholders. Third, its content and realisation is politically legitimised by government decisions. The responsibility for the PPPI Strategy Process as well as the ongoing implementation of the PPPI Action Plan (i.e. the PPPI initiative) lies cooperatively with the BMWFW and the BMVIT; supported by the Federal Procurement Agency (Bundesbeschaffung GmbH – BBG) and the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT).
The PPPI Action Plan contains a project plan with a mix of measures. The corresponding milestones have so far been achieved as follows:
- Strategic dimension (‘soft law’): political commitment to the introduction of innovation procurement in public entities and dedication of budgets (for pilots, services etc.) and integration of innovation needs of public procurers in existing programmes;
- Operative dimension (state aid and procurement): establishment of a PPPI service network consisting of the central PPPI Service Centre, PPPI centres of competence and PPPI contact points;
- Legislative dimension (‘hard law’): amending the Federal Procurement Law to include innovation as an explicit objective (carried out in July 2013);
- Impact dimension: establishment of PPPI monitoring and benchmark systems.
The first phase of the monitoring system has already been implemented by Statistics Austria and the overall evaluation of the PPPI initiative took place during 2017 (results at the beginning of 2018).